Flow velocities of a dilute gas–solid two-phase flow in a vertical sudden expansion were measured using phase Doppler anemometry to study the behaviour of the turbulence modulation for the stronger shear for various particle mass loadings, inlet Reynolds numbers and particle diameters. The measurements show that the particles changed the gas turbulence by elongation of the entire gas flow field in the downstream direction, which displaced the axial profile of the section-averaged fluctuation velocity in comparison with that of the single-phase flow, and by either the particle inertia reducing the local turbulence or the wake eddy effects enhancing the turbulence. Both mechanisms resulted in an apparent turbulence modulation, which has not been referred to in the related literature, and have led to an ambiguous understanding of turbulence modulation. The elongation and inlet effects should be eliminated to estimate whether the gas turbulence was really modified. The linear relationship between the gas mean velocity gradient and the root-mean-square fluctuation velocity, which was found to be similar to that in single-phase flows, gradually disappeared as the flow developed and the shear intensity reduced. The linear relationship also varied with different conditions. Specifically, the turbulence modulation was enhanced by higher particle mass loadings and the linear relationship disappeared with increasing particle mass loading. This linearity can perhaps be regarded as a criterion for determining the effect of stronger turbulence modulation.